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LP/MB/NV/Indian-Tennis: Notes for week ending on Dec 28, 1998

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Dec 28 Note-1

The singles qualifiers got done yesterday at the Mumbai Challenger (hope you saw the scores I had posted yesterday - didn't get time to leave notes here) .. the two Asian youngsters, Harsh Mankad and Aisam Quereshi (PAK) couldn't make it in .. Harsh, the only Indian in the final, lost to the #1 seed Kobi Ziv (ISR, #369), but he and Mustafa Ghouse were in the final round of doubles after a big win over Kobi Ziv and Aisam Quereshi (I believe the final is today against Vishal Uppal and a partner - so we will have one more Indian team in doubles) .. The other qualifiers are Sebastien DeChaunac (FRA), Olivier Mutis (FRA) and Mashiska Washington (USA) ..

I only have some patchy info on the draw, but it's a strange one, with Mahesh facing 6th seed Eyal Ran (ISR, #230) in the first round, the winner drawn to face the winner of Fazaluddin vs Srinath ! .. I hate it when it happens like that .. Those two matches are tomorrow (Tuesday) .. Wildcard entry Vijay Kannan meets Andrei Merinov (RUS, #357), which is scheduled for Monday evening - Merinov is a tough player, but is known to be inconsistent too - hope Vijay gets that first challenger win here.

In doubles, Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane are a direct entry .. Mahesh is playing doubles with Gaurav Natekar (who is basically retired now - Mahesh said he wanted to play a bit of doubles to stay sharp for the Qatar Open next week where he will get back with Leander), Fazal is playing with Dechaunac and Vijay is playing with Anthony Dupuis (not bad idea for Vijay to play with an experienced foreign player - one gets better in doubles with such outings, though I am not sure how good Dupuis is in doubles, having played only a little of it this year and ranked below #800) .. One qualifier doubles team to be decided today.

Back to tracking our youngsters - Now that he is done with singles for the year, how did our top junior in 1997, Harsh Mankad, do in his first year in the senior circuit ? .. I would say he did not make a big splash, though he has so far not disappointed, considering that not much support and opportunities were given to him .. After getting wildcard entries into the January futures, he has had to play qualifiers in every one of the three Indian challengers and the one Indian ATP big event .. This fanclub helped him a bit to go down and play at the Tijuana challenger in Mexico when he was in the US for a month of coaching, which he underwent with the little personal funds he could some up with, and a small sponsorship of a foundation in Mumbai - nobody else in India, including AITA, thought it fitting to give him some support .. Anyway, it's rather impressive that Harsh made it into the final round of qualifiers at four of the five tournaments - Vadodara, Mumbai and tijuana challengers, and the $400K Chennai ATP .. At Chennai and at Mumbai, he was the only Indian to reach the final round (among over 10 players who tried in each case) - his win over Barry Cowan (#309 now - yes, the same one who beat Mahesh last week) at the Chennai ATP qualifiers, and his show at the Mumbai qualifiers this week are perhaps the best .. Harsh's losses in the final rounds of the qualies were to Jan Krejci (now #465), David Nainkin (now #136) at Chennai, Tommy Lenho (#322) at Tijuana, and Kobi Ziv (#369) at Mumbai, and his only early round qualifier loss was a 5-7, 5-7 loss last week to Mashiska Washington (#402) .. At the beginning of the year, he had a win over #751 Don September, and losses to #695 Kravesec, #426 Jamie Delgado and # 317 Noam Okun in the three futures .. In the DSCL nationals, veteran Asif Ismail beat him in the QFs .. In the November satellites, he lost to Vinod Sridhar (#805), Patrik Erhardt (#584), Marian Leysek (#941) and Vijay Kannan (#941) and beat Danai Udomchoke (#590) and a couple of others, ending up tied with Vijay and Sandeep for second place among Indians .. Then the best result of the year - he won the masters doubles title with Vijay, moving up in doubles rankings by about 550 spots ..

So, Harsh Mankad ends the year with one win and six losses to top-400 caliber players, and one win over a top-600 player, with only Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar and Sandeep Kirtane able to beat him among among active Indian players .. Harsh has about 8 or 9 wins over other Indians (Ramchandani, R.Gopalan, Rohan Saikia, Vijendra Laad, Ravikiran Bhat, P.Sreenivasan, A.Jagnani, Saurav Panja, etc) .. In doubles, he has not got any wildcard entries at any place, but has qualified in at Tijuana (with an unranked player he met in the hotel lobby whom he never knew), reached the final round at the other two places where he tried to play qualies at (Vadodara, Mumbai) and had that great run for the satellite masters title .. Overall, Harsh has had a decent year, and in my opinion, Vijay Kannan, Harsh Mankad, and Vinod Sridhar are all players who had good years .. My opinions are solely based on results though, as I don't see any of them play - but sometimes it is better that way, as the results do not lie ! .. Now, 1999 will be the first full year in the seniors for our top junior of 98, Vijay Kannan, and we will be following him very closely next year .. He is about 3 months younger than Harsh, but has so far been looked after well by AITA, and is considered by many to have high potential .. I would like to see Vijay being asked to play some qualifiers, though, to get tough match practice - it does not help to keep giving him wildcards - it's like throwing our best junior player "to the lions", so to say, in the main draw .. Though I complain that guys like Harsh are overlooked for wildcards, that is mostly because I feel it indicates that we are forgetting our youngsters - I am one who thinks that it is ultimately better for the youngsters to play these qualifiers .. At the end of 1999, I will be doing a compilation of Vijay Kannan's exploits, and hopefully he will be much higher ranked too, then !

Dec 27 Notes

Now it appears that TWO rounds of qualifiers were completed on Saturday at the Mumbai challenger - Indian Express which comes online a few hours after the other newspapers has given the second round results also .. Good news - at least there is one Indian left in the final round, unlike at Ahmedabad, where none reached the final round .. And there is also a Pakistani in the final round .. Guess who ? - Harsh Mankad and Aisam Quereshi - I wonder if I have some psychic ability, after speaking of those two yesterday! :-) .. Anyway, Harsh beat Libor Nemecek of Czech Republic in straight sets, and Aisam defeated Amod Wakalkar in three sets in their second matches on Saturday. The others in the final round are Ziv Kobi (ISR), Mashika Washington (USA), Regis Lavergne (FRA) who beat Manoj Mahadevan in R2, Olivier Mutis (FRA) who beat Sandeep Kirtane in R2, Arvind Parmar (GBR) and Sebastian Dechaunac (FRA) .. Parmar and DeChaunac were qualifiers and Mutis and Lavergne were final round losers at Ahmedabad .. I don't know who will be playing whom in the final round .. Great job by Harsh to get this far - now it gets even tougher though .. Other than Harsh at #862 and Aisam at #779, the other six are ranked between 369 and 462 .. They both will have to pull their biggest wins ever to reach the main draw - I don't know who is playing whom today in the final round .. See the Mumbai challenger page ..

Dec 26 Note-1

Day after Christmas turned out to be very good for Anthony Dupuis, as he won his first challenger title of the year, beating Oleg Ogorodov 6-4, 6-2 .. Ogorodov has been tearing people up the whole week, but Dupuis has been reportedly "in a zone", and was not in any mood to let up either .. The 60 points will take Dupuis to a career-high #175 or therabouts now. 113 of his 280 points this year (his best two tournaments) have come from the Gujarat challengers .. He will move into the top-10 among the French players, which is quite remarkable for somebody ranked near #400 earlier in the year and barely in the French top-25 !! .. He earned about $8000 out of his $23K earnings this year from two weeks in India. The doubles title went to 3rd seed Noam Okun and Nir Welgreen who beat the top seeds Noam Behr and Eyal Ran in a three setter, 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, where they won 5 of the last 6 games after losing 10 of the previous 11 .. Racquet abuse was called on Behr during the match with point penalty too - this match among compatriots was defnitely not uneventful (sources: Indian newspapers) .. See the final scorecards at the Ahmedabad challenger page - I must thank the folks at AGETA for promptly emailing me the match results by the evening everyday throughout the week!

The matches were on Doordarshan - I am told that Doordarshan has a contract with AITA to show all the challenger finals - just that they need to be on saturdays - people don't like Sunday movies to be preempted .. This is good, and not too many challenger finals around the world are televised .. The problem with Doordarshan is that they are too inflexible when it comes to scheduling something on the fly - such as when LP-MB are at the Hartford tournament, etc .. At most tournaments, normally only the doubles finals have a definite scheduled time - and nobody can say for sure who will be in a final .. Other than at a grand slam, it does not make sense to just schedule a final on TV, unless our guys are in it .. That means, there is no way they will show it even if LP-MB are in a block-buster Super 9 final (such as when they were at the Paris final 2 months back, where they inflicted the last loss on the legendary team of Eltingh-Haarhuis, which was also their only final loss the whole year - it could have been a terrific match to show on Doordarshan, but quick action to schedule something like that is way too much to expect of them! - The Indian tennis fans missed seeing one of the greatest wins by their greatest doubles team - a two-set shellacking, that too!) ..

News from the Mumbai Challenger qualifiers: They are underway, and after the first round of the most competitive ATP challenger qualifiers anywhere in the world this year (except for Ahmedabad last week), we have 4 Indians advancing to final-16 (three rounds to select 4 qualifiers), and 11 have lost .. The nicest win of the day by an Indian was perhaps by Harsh Mankad, who took out talented Saurav Panja, 6-1, 6-2 .. Manoj Mahadevan beat S.Zaman, Amod Wakalkar beat Arun Avinash, and Sandeep Kirtane beat Anand Radhakrishnan to advance .. The other seven Indians lost to foreign opponents .. Another win of note - our man Aisam Ul Haq Quereshi (of Pakistan) beat Dmitry Tomashevic, qualifier and then quarterfinalist last week at Ahemedabad, ranked 400 spots above Aisam, in a three-setter ! .. See the results (as reported by The Hindu) in the new Mumbai challenger page ..

Talking of Harsh Mankad and Aisamul Haq Quereshi, these two had signed in after Harsh couldn't find a good partner, for the doubles qualifiers last week (I am not sure why Vijay Kannan who had done so well, winning the satellite doubles in Harsh's company, chose to play with Vishal Uppal at Ahmedabad - they got a main-draw wildcard, MB-Srinath had one, and Fazal- Vikrant had the 3rd .. The Kirtanes had a direct entry) .. Apparently the doubles qualifiers got cancelled and that spot became the 3rd wildcard. That's strange .. Anyway, I wonder how Harsh and Aisam would have done together - both are very talented doubles players too. We will see what happens at Mumbai .. As always, Harsh Mankad just does not seem to get a break anywhere - in the last challenger at Vadodara, a wildcard which he should have got went to Wesley Whitehouse of South Africa - and this time, they cancel the doubles qualifiers altogether! .. And our 19-year old #6 doubles player does not even get a chance at the qualifiers, though four Indians ranked below him (OK, two were Srinath and Fazal - I am not complaining) played in the main draw .. It just does not look fair to happen to a youngster who had won the satellite masters just 6 weeks back and picked up 33 points to come up 550 spots in the ranks. Not the right way to treat a player, though this may be a case where things fell through the cracks for nobody's fault. If you are wondering why I keep bringing up Harsh here, it is just to give examples of what should not happen if we want to develop our youngsters - just that these things keep happening in his case..

Dec 25 Note-2

Well, it must have been a typing error in the email I got from the tournament office earlier today .. It has been now corrected - the second seed Anthony Dupuis did actually win the semifinal today at Ahmedabad, beating Eyal Ran, not the other way .. I have corrected the Ahmedabad challenger page now. Make that the second challenger final of the year for the French man Dupuis, and both are in Gujarat challengers (the other from Vadodra in April) .. He must buy a house and move somewhere in Gujarat! .. By the way, it seems Doordarshan has decided to show tomorrow's final between Dupuis and Ogorodov .. I wonder what happened here .. Could it be that everybody's criticism about Doordarshan completely ignoring tennis, reached them afterall ?? .. If so, that's good news.

Dec 25 Note-1

In a good coincidence, a few minutes right after I posted my harangue about the women's calendar in India (please read the last note below), today's Indian Express had come online with an article from SK John titled "Indian circuit offers $880K in booty" (that inludes $450K in the Chennai ATP, and about $430K in futures/satellites/challengers, I assume) .. He says this, "Men apart, there are enough incentives for the women pro to plan a trip to India. All these years, women had nothing to play for here. But now, the total pickings stand at $160,000. And with talk of more Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tournaments coming in, the tennis scene in the country is showing signs of life" .. He has not given any split-up on the $160K for women, and it may be based on what AITA is saying now .. I hope this is not yet another hog-wash promise, but is going to happen .. If I were to guess, this includes a $25K challenger, going with the $75K challenger for Dec 99 which is already in the calendar .. That leaves $60K, and I don't know how that splits up .. It may be good news, if true, because the only way that can happen is through six weeks of $10K futures .. Could it be that AITA has converted the 8 weeks reserved for satellites (two circuits, Feb 22 - Mar 20 and then Nov 15 - Dec 12) to six weeks of $10K futures ? .. Could it be ? .. If so, they have done their homework and it is a terrific set of tourneys for women .. No indication of any of this in the ITF calendar I got yesterday, updated on Dec 22nd, though.. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

As Mr. John says, there have indeed been talk of actual WTA events in India. There has never been a WTA event in India - the futures, satellites and the $25K/$75K challengers are all sanctioned by ITF, though they give WTA points, unlike in the men's case, where the futures/satellites are sanctioned by ITF and the challengers by ATP .. From what I have heard, apparently the gentleman who sponsored the $75K challenger in Delhi was very interested in seeing an actual WTA event in the future, which is reportedly why the $75K Delhi challenger in 98 was going to be augmented with another $25K challenger in 99 .. Let us hope all this will work out in the future .. Right now I am interested in the present, like the next 3 months, and $10K futures events is the future for the present - AITA has hopefully done something!

As for men, $270K is for the taking, excluding the Chennai ATP .. SK John mentions that there will be 5 men's challengers in 1999 .. Three of them we are aware of, all organized by Paes en Sport in Feb-March .. That means at least another couple more will be there .. The men's circuit is in very healthy shape in India ..

At the Ahmedabad challenger today, the 4th seed Oleg Ogorodov, who has been winning his matches so easily so far, had another easy 2-sets win to reach the final .. The other finalist is 5th seed Eyal Ran, who has been at almost every challenger in India for the last few years - he beat Anthony Dupuis in a tough three-setter (by the way, the newspaper reports on yesterday's QF against Srinath were all praises about Dupuis "unbelievable play" - he moved very well and did not give Srinath a chance - I think his luck ran out against Ran today) .. the top seeds in doubles, Behr and Ran, got their second walkover in row and are in the finals against another Israeli team, Okun and Welgreen .. MB/SP gave them a QF walkover earlier, and yesterday, Carras/Lavergne gave them an SF w/o, apparently because of stomach problems - funny how experienced Indian travellers like Ran, Ogorodov, Kutsenko, Dupuis and Motomura never seem to have food problems in India, but any time we see some new names, we next hear of them falling prey to the food (I mentioned earlier how much bad rep Indian tournaments have thanks to players not knowing enough about how to survive in India - I was waiting to see who falls first to this at Ahmedabad! - Again, something needs to be done about this .. Perhaps like giving the foreigners a lot of guidelines on what/where to eat, right when they show up) .. See the Ahmedabad challenger page for all the results.

In other news, the Indian Express also reports that Balram Singh, the former DHAITA chief-coach is opening a new tennis coaching academy in Delhi .. I did not report it here, but I had heard the rumblings from sources in India that AITA had fired Balram Singh from DHAITA this month .. I even heard that there may not be a junior developmental center in Delhi anymore .. This was one of the 5 centers that AITA was going to fund with substantial money, each with nationally selected sub-junior players (the other four are Bhupathi Sr's Tennis Village in Bangalore, Krishnan Tennis Center in Madras, Jaideep Mukherjee's academy in Calcutta and one in Pune) .. We have to wait and see what happens to Vijay Kannan and Shruti Dhwan who were at DHAITA, and others like Parantap Chaturvedi .. Why not get Vijay and Shruti to go to Bangalore or Chennai, both with very good coaches and with other talented players to hit with ? - Just my uneducated opinion.. :-)

Dec 25 Note-1

It is Christmas eve, and I have other things to do, but when I get mad, I have to type stuff here. Here is what is making me mad - the utter lack of care from those in India for women's tennis.

Since I had not heard anything for my repeated questions on the women's calendar in India, I decided to get the latest calendar from ITF, London .. And got a rude shock finding that there are no damn futures organized in India (we had two in late Feb and early March last year), but, as though nobody had heard the sharp criticism from everyone including our players who sufferred through that four week circus last november, called the "ITF developmental satellite circuit", I find another 4-week circus in the calendar (Feb-22 to Mar-20) .. What is going on - this is just plain cluelessness .. Nobody wants satellite circuits anymore - Get it ? Nobody! .. WE NEED FUTURES, NOT SATELLITES ! - AITA hasn't learned this ? .. At least the men's satellites give a lot of points and nobody complains - these women's "developmental circus" gives 5 paltry WTA points solely for the final week and disregards everything from earlier weeks. It does not help anybody, and our women players were very vocal about it, not to mention our press. It is an insult to their (and our) intelligence, to tell us that the domestic circuit will be canned in favor of the so-called "internationals", and then to give us these $5K satellite weeks, where we find 2 "international" players if we are lucky - what is the bloody point, I ask ?

It is embarassing to see India as one of only two countries still organizing these $5K per-week satellites (the other is Mexico, but they do have some $10K futures also in the calendar). Yes, the circuit is equivalent to four Rs. 2 lakhs domestic tournaments, but prize money is not all the women were asking for - they need some tournaments WITH POINTS! .. How can they move up enough to be able to travel to foreign countries and enter tournaments, unless they pick up their first 20-25 points from India (that will be FIVE such circuits of four weeks each, and one needs to win the masters week every time to get 5 pts each! - see how ridiculous it is ?).

Then there is more - this may be early calendar for the latter part of 1999, but all I see is yet another $75K challenger (in Dec 99) in India - no sign of the one or two $25K challengers promised for the weeks before the $75K challenger .. One thing we all hate about sports authorities in India is their uncanny (and shameful) ability to make grand promises, only not to deliver later .. As though nobody gives any value to their own words .. This must change .. AITA has kept their word though - they did make some changes in the calendar last year, as promised, though mostly it helped only the men's circuit .. Time to start doing something about the women's calendar .. And, oh, by the way, there is yet another "developmental circuit" (or circus, if you prefer) in november, in the immediate four weeks preceding the $75K Delhi challenger.. But this is all early calendar for late 99, so things can and will have to change on that.

The immediate question is - are we going to have three or four $10K futures in India in Feb-March or not ? .. This 4-week circuit is absolutely unacceptable. I would ask anyone, on behalf of our women players who I am sure agree with me, to go take a flying leap off the cliff with that circuit. The calendar shows two weeks of $10K futures in Manila (coinciding with the latter two weeks of the Indian circus), followed by two weeks in Seoul - Japan already has 4 weeks of $10K events in September, and two more weeks of $10K events in November .. Events in Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan do enter the calendar promptly every year.. India, as though, we are such a low-weight country in tennis, still gets these awful $5K circuses with no points .. If all these countries can have their act together, whay can't India ? .. Then there is more - the first week of the Indian satellites now coincides with the $75K challenger in Dubai, which is one of the closest places where Indian women can go and try to play the qualies (one can get as many points in a couple of qualifier wins there, as one can after four weeks of the "circus" - actually the Venkataraman sisters did play qualies at Dubai last year, if I remember correctly)..

One single sponsor came up with funds for the $75K Delhi challenger in November. We cannot find a single sponsor for $10K events ? If nothing else works, perhaps AITA should pull out a few lakhs from their own funds to do this - yes, it is that important.

Can anything be changed for late February ? .. I am not sure if there is time for a change. I sincerely hope AITA has done something and things are just waiting to appear in a revised ITF calendar soon. If not, they have messed it up royally, right at the time when Indian women tennis is really showing some real signs of life .. May I remind - three top-500 women for the first time in our history, a couple of players, Sai and Manisha, who have moved up several hundred spots up in the last few months, and a 16-yr old, Shruti, who won that last satellites, not to mention 18 yr-old Uzma who is our national champion .. Lack of hope for betterment is a primary reason why talented players quit and go pick up bank desk jobs - they need players up in the ranking and doing well as role models too - if we don't help our current players to move up, the impact is not just on them; it is on the future of women's tennis in India. I know am regurgitating the same old stuff here (and most of you know these things) but I get the feeling that people are not caring yet .. Timing is very important in developing sports. You miss the chance (or the boat) when things look promising, and it may take much longer to get that chance. Can we get something done for the women's calendar ? .. can we get two or three $10K futures and one or two $25K challengers added in ? I challenge AITA to do that! - thanks for the changes in the men's circuit, but we need more, this time it's for women's tennis.

Merry Christmas!

Dec 24 Note-1

Srinath's run ended today at the Ahmedabad challenger, where he lost in the QF to the second seed Anthony Dupuis, 6-4, 6-2 .. Dupuis must really, really like playing in India - he was in the final of the last challenger in India, at Vadodara, where he beat Vijay Kannan, Oleg Ogorodov, Eyal Ran and Leander Paes before losing in the final to Peter Tramacchi .. this time, so far, it has been Vijay Kannan, Jamie Delgado, and Prahlad Srinath .. He next gets, who else, Eyal Ran - and if he advances, probably Ogorodov again! .. Dupuis has been ranked as high as #196 a couple of years back, and will now leave from Ahmedabad with his career-best inside #190 .. And two of the four tournaments where he picked up over 25 points are both in India (he had 53 pts at Vadodara, where he entered ranked around #350) .. As for Srinath, he has to be happy with some very good points here, despite the Achilles tendon injury problems. Going up in ranking to around #355 will help Srinath in getting into most $50K challengers around the world.

All the higher ranked players won today, with Kentaro Masuda, 4th seed Ogorodov and 5th seed Eyal Ran also advancing. In the doubles, all four seeded teams are now in the semis .. All the results are at the Ahmedabad challenger page.

The Indian contingent now goes to Mumbai for the $25K+H challenger there next week.

Dec 23 Note-2

Mahesh apparently strained his shoulder a bit during practice today and that was the reason why he and Srinath withdrew from the doubles QFs .. According to Prajwal Hegde (Deccan Herald), the tournament doctor assured that it is nothing serious and MB will be fully ready for the Mumbai challenger next week ..

Some US Collegiate Tennis News: .. The fall rankings of collegiate players came out a few days back .. Vikrant Chadha, who started the season ranked #44 has fallen a bit, down to #89 .. He has not had a very good fall so far, and actually has had some injury problems (back, I believe) for a while .. He is still the highest ranked Indian player in the US Univs .. Vikrant, as we know, was ranked as high as #24 in ITF juniors a couple of years back (he is 20 yrs old now) which is perhaps the highest ranking by one of our juniors in the last few years .. He is in his 3rd year at the Univ of Mississippi - I expect him to do better in the second half of the tennis season, as he did the last two years .. No other Indian is in the collegiate top-100, but a couple are just outside .. Ajay Ramaswamy, one of our top juniors till last year, is in his first year at the Charleston Southern University in South Carolina .. After just one semester there, Ajay has already shown up in the rankings as the 20th player in region-II of NCAA (there are eight regions) .. Another player is Salil Seshadri (anybody remembers him, from about 3 years back when he was at the top of the juniors list? - He had spent a year or two trying a few ATP satellites, etc, and was even ranked inside the top-1000) .. Salil, now about 21 yrs old, is at the Columbia University in New York - he is ranked #12 in region-I ("Ivy league", perhaps one of the weaker divisions in NCAA) .. Both Ajay and Salil are somewhere just inside the top-150 in US collegiate rankings. Akshay Jagdale is in his first year at Rutgers University .. Jaideep Shetty, another very talented player, has transferred to the St.Johns University from Texas Christian Univ where he was before - Jaideep has not really lived up to his promise here, I am told .. Finally, Fazal's younger brother, Saifuddin Syed, who is at a small college (Graceland, Iowa) is ranked #7 in NAIA (a lower division than NCAA) in both singles and doubles .. I am not really aware of too many Indian girls in US univs now - hopefully Uzma will be the next one to make some noise here, like Divya Merchant and Manisha Malhotra did recently. .. There is the update on the collegiate scene .. I will report if I hear of any interesting news during the spring season.

Dec 23 Note-1

Just received the results from AGETA - Great news! .. Srinath continues his good form at the Ahmedabad challenger .. Today (wednesday), he has upset another top player - the 7th seed Goichi Motomura (#236) of Japan - Make that the 3rd upset of top-300 players in the last 4 matches he has played (including beating Kutsenko at the Asiad) .. If I am not mistaken, Srinath plays the 2nd seed Anthony Dupuis (FRA) in the quarterfinals tomorrow .. He gets 13 points for the two wins, taking his point total to 90, and his ranking up by about 35 spots from 390 to around 355 - also assuring himself that he will stay in the top-400 even if he does not defend the 12 points he has to defend in 4 weeks from the January 98 India futures .. Srinath had said yesterday that he feels no pressure at all and just wanted to have fun and keep moving up. That seems to be exactly what he is doing .. A big part of what is needed in tennis to move up is the confidence and belief that one belongs in the top group. It is pretty clear that Srinath has started believing that .. No doubt that he has taken the proverbial "next step", after moving up into the top-600 class late last year.

Sharda Ugra's article today ins The Hindu says that Srinath is not exactly injury-free .. He has brought an Achilles tendon injury from the Asiad, which can be pretty painful, but he is holding up well so far .. As for Mahesh, he just looked a bit drained yesterday in his first round match, quite clearly the after-effect of the emotional experience he had at the Asiad and Asia Cup .. When one put it all out on the line for the country, also leading and motivating the team-mates, a first round challenger match can be tough to get motivated for .. Mahesh said he kept telling himself to stay tough during the match, and wanted to win the match against Barry Cowan - but he couldn't do it .. He gave credit to Cowan for playing a good match.

Back to today's matches at Ahmedabad - I received the scores by email from the AGETA office (thanks!), and it shows that Mahesh and Srinath gave a walkover in the quarterfinal doubles to the top seeds Noam Behr and Eyal Ran .. I am not sure what the reason is - perhaps Mahesh is not feeling physically fit and wanted to take some more days off, before the Mumbai challenger next week. Apparently they entered doubles just for fun. Srinath may not want to make his own injury worse either .. Srinath picked up 13 points for that win though, which will sky-rocket his ranking up from #1386 to inside 1000 :-) .. Sri only had one doubles point before.

Other than Srinath's upset of the 7th seed, there were no other seeds who lost today at Ahmedabad - #2, #4, #5 and #6 seeds are in the quarterfinals now .. See the results at the Ahmedabad challenger page.

Dec 22 Note-2

I have updated a lot of the pages at this site which were falling behind a bit in updated stats - all of LP's and MB's match results, doubles/singles points, etc, have all been updated now. Check out the links at the LP-MB results index page .. Check out the updated schedule for LP and MB also.

The domestic Indian tennis calendar page is also updated now .. Talking of the domestic calendar, is it time to start screaming at AITA again ?? .. The domestic calendar for the second half of 1998 came out 2-3 months later than people wanted, that too only after some newspaper articles criticizing the delay .. Right now, it is unclear for the first half of 99 itself .. Unless I missed any news, there is no sign of any women's tournaments for the first part of 1999 yet .. We had two futures (Mumbai and Delhi) in Feb-March in 1998, but nothing that I have heard yet .. During the 4-week developmental satellite circuit a few weeks back, we had heard that there will be lots of futures for women coming soon .. Hello ?? .. Is anything happening ? .. The women players had made it very clear that they are not in favor of 4-week satellite circuits (too few points, especially if they are of the type we had recently) and would like to have many more one-week futures. This is especially important, now that the stated policy is to have internationals instead of the domestic tournament circuit (which is cut down significantly). Either put the domestic circuit back in place, or have enough number of internationals - that means at least 5 or 6 weeks of $10K futures .. Women's tennis is gaining some momentum in India and let's hope we don't lose it.

Dec 22 Note-1

The Indian #2 right now is still from Karnataka, but from Mysore, not Bangalore .. Srinath won today and Mahesh lost at the Ahmedabad challenger ..

Srinath pulled a memorable upset win today, over Ivan Ljubicic (#293) of Croatia, 6-3, 6-4 .. Mahesh, on the other hand may not have fully recovered from the Asiad exertion (just what I had feared) and he went down to Barry Cowan (#309) of Britain, 6-7(3), 3-6 .. Fazal could not upset Jamie Delgado of Britain, either .. Finally, Vijay Kannan provided some excitement stretching the 2nd seed Anthony Dupuis (#208, ranked 700 spots above Vijay) to three sets, 2-6, 6-2, 4-6 .. It is nice to see Vijay being able to play a top quality opponent that closely .. In doubles, our Karnataka cannons - Mahesh and Srinath beat Pampoulov and Motevassel to become the only Indian team in the quarterfinal, as Nitin and Sandeep Kirtane went down in the first round today .. In other news there, the top seed David Caldwell (#182) went down in a big upset to the second lowest ranked player in the field, Kentaro Masuda (who is at 483 now, but was at around 350 three weeks back when the direct entry closed, which is why he is in the field) .. Mahesh would have faced Masuda, had he won his match today, I believe .. the 3rd seed Lior Mor of Israel got beaten by country-mate Ofer Sela in a mild upset .. See all the results in the Ahmedabad challenger page .. Since I don't have a full draw with me, I am unsure right now whom Srinath plays in the second round - will know soon.

Srinath's win today gives him 7 points, taking his point total to 84, above the 80 pts that Mahesh has - hence he is right now the Indian #2 .. It will remain unoffcial next week though, as ATP is not updating the ranks for another 3 weeks.

.. Previous notes are at Weekly Notes, ending Dec 21 ..